Texas Legislature Begins Interim Studies on Mental Health Policies
March 1, 2008
Several Texas legislative committees are examining policy issues related to mental health in preparation for the 81st legislative session that will convene in January 2009.
Senate committees are studying issues related to criminal and civil offenders with mental illnesses, delivery of mental health and crisis care services, uses of a federal mental health transformation grant, and funding for coordination of mental health services by the Department of State Health Services.
House committees are studying mental illness in the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems, emerging federal policies on mental health care for military veterans, and Texas Youth Commission mental health practices.
Other issues being examined by legislators during the interim are indirectly linked to mental health, such as reducing the number of uninsured Texans, identifying the state's current and long-range need for health care professionals, offering incentives to attract medical providers to medically underserved areas, preparing foster children for adult living, providing indigent health care, and examining criminal background check requirements across Texas health and human service agencies.
"These are all very important issues that affect mental health-related services and programs for Texans, and they deserve to be studied by the Texas Legislature," said Dr. King Davis, executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.
Hogg Foundation staff plan to monitor the interim committees' progress, participate in the process as needed, and study the committees' final reports and proposed recommendations prior to the start of the session.
Legislative committees may hold public hearings in Austin and other areas of the state during the interim study process to gather input on issues from the public, stakeholders, and local and state government officials.
After the studies are completed, the interim committees will issue final reports with study findings and recommendations for legislative consideration during the upcoming session.
House Interim Studies Related to Mental Health
- Joint Study by the House Appropriations and Corrections Committees: Assess the relationship between mental illness and criminal behavior and offer reforms needed to address the proliferation of mental illness in the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems. This review should include an examination of data sharing between criminal justice and health and human services agencies, proper screening, assessments, treatment, discharge planning, post-release supervision, and community services.
- House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee: Determine whether current mental health practices followed by the Texas Youth Commission are adequate or appropriate, and make recommendations for any needed changes.
- House Defense Affairs and State-Federal Relations Committee: Monitor the United States Congress for the enactment and rules regarding the Veteran's Mental Health Outreach and Access Act of 2007. Explore coordination with the community-based clinics in Texas that would be able to provide the prescribed services to veterans.
- House Human Services Committee: Evaluate existing and past efforts by the state for Youth Transitions in Independent Living. Recommend improvements to educational, occupational, health and life skills components of preparation of foster children for adult living.
- House Public Health Committee: Research issues relating to the Indigent Health Care and Treatment Act (Chapter 61, Health and Safety Code) and related local health care initiatives (Chapter 534, Govt. Code), and make recommendations to address any imbalance between counties for the provision of health care.
- Joint Study by the House Appropriations, Public Health, and Border and International Affairs Committees: Study the state's current and long-range need for physicians, dentists, nurses, and other allied health and long-term care professionals. Make recommendations regarding strategies related to both geographic distribution and barriers to recruitment of high-need professions, especially for primary care providers and long-term care professionals.
Senate Interim Studies Related to Mental Health
- Senate Health & Human Services Committee: Study the effectiveness of the Resiliency and Disease Management Program in the mental health service delivery system, implementation of changes to the crisis care program, and recommendations for appropriate use of the Mental Health Transformation Grant. Identify strategies to increase access to services and meet future demand for services. Examine resource allocation and opportunities to maximize funding. Policy recommendations should maximize the number of inpatient psychiatric acute care beds, enhance access to outpatient services, promote the use of recovery-based services, and enhance access to community-based services.Study the potential for development of Health Enterprise Zones, which could offer tax incentives to medical providers who locate within the boundaries of designated medically underserved areas. Analyze similar legislation enacted in other states, specifically New Jersey, and estimate costs and benefits.
- Joint Study by the Senate Criminal Justice and State Affairs Committees: Study the relationship between the public mental health system and the criminal justice and civil courts systems, including the identification and sharing of information regarding mentally ill offenders, including minors, among criminal justice and mental health agencies, the courts, state hospitals, and the Veterans Administration. Study how current confidentiality laws impact the exchange of information among groups described above. Study the sentencing of mentally ill offenders compared to non-mentally ill offenders, including minors, and the effect that has on statewide prison capacity and on the health care provided to mentally ill offenders.
- Joint Study by the Senate Health & Human Services and International Relations and Trade Committees: Study the state's current and long-range need for physicians, dentists, nurses, and other allied health and long-term care professionals. Make recommendations on how the state can help recruit high-need professions, especially for primary care providers and long-term care professionals in the underserved regions and border region of Texas.
- Senate Government Organization Committee: Examine criminal background check requirements across Texas health and human service, law enforcement, and education agencies, as well as other licensed professionals. Determine best practices, develop cross-agency standards, and make recommendations for reducing costs and streamlining the process.
- Senate Finance Committee: Provide effective budget oversight of state agencies to ensure that monies appropriated are spent wisely. Particular areas of focus will include ... the Department of State Health Services coordination of mental health services...
- Senate State Affairs Committee: Study and make recommendations for reducing the number of uninsured Texans, focusing on:
– Options to increase access to private health insurance, including 3 Share programs, employer sponsored plans and portable, individual insurance.
– Incentives for encouraging counties and local governments to participate in private health insurance cost-sharing for their respective residents.
– Options to reduce health care premiums, including creation of special plans with increased deductibles and catastrophic coverage.
– Implementation and possible expansion of health services districts.
– Other state programs for increasing market-based coverage of the uninsured, including costs and effectiveness.
– Options that will increase consumer choice and personal responsibility.
– Analysis of state and federal regulations that contribute to higher premium costs.